No, the American people haven't spoken. There are 308,549,107 of us. Massachusetts has spoken. But it was hardly a mandate. There was no message, other than not to blow a double-digit lead in a crucial election. If Scott Brown had beaten Ted Kennedy, that would've been a message. This was independent voters saying they don't like Democrats who try to skate into office, who take their votes for granted, and who think Curt Shilling was a Yankee fan. Brilliant campaigning. Why not just fart in a pot of Boston baked beans?
But something has gone wrong this past year. Basically, the Democrats took the wrong message from Obama's election. The President did not sweep into office by connecting with the people. His real victory came against Hillary. He Scott Browned the shit out of her. But in the general election against McCain, go back to 2008 ...
The economy was in China Syndrome core meltdown. Paulson and Bernanke hit Capitol Hill with a 3-page note that read: "We have a gun. Put $700 billion in a bag, and don't ask any questions." And as the Republican candidate, McCain's response was to begin shooting himself in the foot so often it was like he was having a Vietnam flashback, this time playing both victim and torturer. "The state of our economy is strong." BANG! "I'm suspending my campaign until the crisis is over." BANG! Then the convention. Sarah's purity ball. And a post-convention bump. For a moment, it looked like she might actually be his savior. Then she opened her mouth and went all Annie Oakley on herself. Katie Couric. BANG! Tina Fey and SNL. BANG! Republican stump appearances that looked and sounded like Klan rallies. BANG! Obama's a Socialist! A Communist! A Muslim! He's pallin' around with terrorists! BANG, BANG, BANG, AND BANG!
Suddenly it looked like electing McCain president would be like handing your senile grandpa the car keys so he could take a spin around the block while his MILFY nurse rode shotgun. Obama's intelligence and unflappability made him look like the sane choice, by contrast. American didn't suddenly swing left. We didn't suddenly get religion and realize it was about time we elected an African-American to the White House. America did what it always does: voted its economic interest and figured we better not follow 8 years of Republican incompetence with 8 years of Republican bumbling. Better to let the smart young kid drive. Yes, the result was historic. But the motivation was timeless: fear.
Sure, Obama's people were chess players. But then, when they got into office, they neglected to realize that the chess match was over. It was now a street fight. From day one the Republican strategy was to do everything in its power to destroy the President's image. Tarnish the brand. Put a dent in his popularity. Make him look vulnerable. No insult or accusation was too inane. Or too insane. Just keep hurling shit. Guilt by accusation. He's Kenyan! He's a Socialist! He's ruining "our" country! He bowed to the Japanese! He's Hitler! You lie!
But the President could've wiped all that away as the childish nonsense it was by keeping his focus on one thing: Americans vote their pocketbooks. Always have. Always will. From the moment they took office, the White House message should've consisted of just one word: jobs. Every advisor on every Sunday morning show should've repeated it like a mantra: We're putting America back to work. And, assuming some of that might have actually been accomplished, and that message communicated, then with that much political clout and good will, the president could have trotted out a full-blown liberal agenda and America wouldn't give a shit. An America at work doesn't give a crap about socialized medicine. We don't care about Socialism. Most Americans couldn't even spell it, let alone define it. And all the Fucked News shrieking would've fallen on the deaf ears of people who could still make their mortgage payments. The tea bag rallies would've looked like what they really were: Day trips for special needs adults.
But despite the missteps, I still have confidence in Obama. Not faith. Faith is bullshit. But he needs to understand we're not a nation of thinkers. We're a nation of reactors. That's why we always go for the hope and change message. We always think the status quo is fucked (and most often, some part of it is) and the next guy is Jesus. It's that savior mentality we have with head coaches, and presidents -- Things suck. The next guy will save us. Then when he doesn't, we crucify him and bring in the next guy.
One botched election is not a national movement. The only way it will be a national movement is if the Republicans keep repeating the phrase "It's a national movement," until people start thinking it's a national movement. Democrats argue the fine points of policy like they're in robes and it's ancient Athens. Republicans pick a slogan and beat you to death with it. And they're good at it.
The White House needs to realize we're basically a simple people. Give us jobs, cheap gas, and don't raise taxes and you could start a government-run health care chain called Karl Marx Memorial Hospitals, with the Mao Zedong Gift Shop and Joseph Stalin Parking Lot. With free parking. There's nothing we love more than free parking. Or, if that's too radical, and they can't pass health insurance reform, then build new hospitals or renovate old ones. Even in partnership with the private sector so they're not government-run. Jobs and medical care rolled into one. Bring in young doctors and give them a chance to work off their medical school loans in areas that need doctors. A 21st Century VISTA program. End run the bastards.
We're really a very simple people. We don't run on theories. We just want to work. Drive our cars. Feed our families. And watch a little football.